Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s going to be another week where my word limit goes out the window. The featured post “Can We Overthrow the Creditocracy?” is a sort-of review of Andrew Ross’ Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal. I think the book has important ideas in it, but I found Ross’ writing style distractingly polemic and sloppy with numbers, so I recast the ideas I liked in my own way of thinking. Consequently, the “review” turned into another one of my history-of-the-world-in-one-sitting posts.

I could have compensated by cutting down the weekly summary, but I really wanted to call attention to the high quality of last week’s comments on the Charlie Hebdo article. And I had a mistake to fix, which turned out to be kind of interesting. And then there’s been actual news to comment on … you know how it goes. At least I’m not talking about 2016 this week; if only CNN could say the same.

The Creditocracy article is in that stage where it’s hard to say how long it will take to screw down the details. I’m aiming for posting in the 10-11 range, but I really have no idea. The summary should follow shortly after.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The week was dominated by the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the pursuit of the killers, and the wide variety of responses from around the world and all corners of the political spectrum.

My own response will be in the featured post, “Am I Charlie? Should I Be?”, which should come out around 10.

The weekly summary, around noon, will start with other people’s responses to the massacre, then talk about James Fallows’ “The Tragedy of the American Military”, the predictable conservative freak-out when blacks start their own version of Open Carry Texas, and a few other things.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The featured post this week is a reaction to the controversy over Steve Scalise having spoken to a white supremacist group in 2002. I’ll skip over points well-covered elsewhere and the opportunity to accuse a member of the House Republican leadership of racism, and go straight to the point I think this incident illustrates: not that Republicans are all racists, but that racists are a big enough part of the Republican base (especially in the South) that a rising politician needs to court them. Scalise foolishly courted them in person rather than through hints made elsewhere, but that was a mis-step in what (for conservatives) is a gray area.

The question this incident raises for me is the title of the article: “Will Republicans Ever Have a Sister Souljah Moment?” In other words, will a major Republican candidate ever intentionally and visibly offend the more extreme parts of his base in order to gain credibility with the center? Liberal Democrats often face the question of whether they should (or why they don’t) stage a Sister Souljah moment with some liberal constituency. But conservative Republicans never do. Instead, they compete to be the “true conservative” in the race.

So by all means, Republican candidates should speak to white supremacist groups — to explain why they support renewing the Voting Rights Act or passing immigration reform — and get themselves booed off the stage. But they won’t.

That post should be out in an hour or two. The weekly summary will talk about the weird implications of NYPD’s “slowdown”, some best-of-2014 stuff I found, interesting economic observations from Joseph Stiglitz, the Ducks’ unique post-Rose-Bowl taunting, and the sky-diving elephants from France. I’m not sure how long that will take to finish, but I’m aiming to post by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s the end of the year, time to sift the Sifts of 2014. The Yearly Sift should be out in an hour or two.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Another week with a lot of stuff to talk about: Cuba, Sony, the murdered NYPD officers, and Jeb Bush’s candidacy, plus a few other things.

But the featured article will look at one particularly malignant way the Right is responding to the torture report: attempting to make the word torture meaningless by misusing it to death. This isn’t the first time conservatives have tried to alter common English usage this way, with the goal of inhibiting the spread of ideas they find unwelcome; and it isn’t as direct and honest as liberal usage-altering efforts like: “We need to stop saying nigger and faggot, or referring to adult female humans as girls.” The article, “Newspeaking About Torture” will describe the break-a-word-through-misuse tactic, relating it to language-manipulation ideas from George Orwell’s 1984. Expect to see it post around 8 EST.

The weekly summary will follow; around 10, I hope. It will discuss the topics listed above, and close with a few songs you can hum to yourself when “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is starting to drive you crazy, like Cheech and Chong’s “Police Got My Car”.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s another week where there’s one obvious thing to talk about: torture. So this week’s featured post will be “5 Things to Understand about the Torture Report”. It should be out maybe 10ish. I will take the radical position that laws should be enforced and people who break them should stand trial, including people on my side if it comes to that.

The weekly summary begins with one aspect of the public response to the torture report: the people who are zealously against Big Government and its abuses of power — except when it’s abusing people they don’t like, either by torturing suspected terrorists or gunning down young black men. The technical term for this democracy-for-me/tyranny-for-thee position is herrenvolk democracy, which I’ll explain.

In other news, Congress avoided another government shutdown, but Wall Street had to be paid off first.

I almost covered the University of Virginia rape story when it first came out, but I ran out of space. That stroke of luck kept me from needing to correct the embarrassing comments I would have made, now that the story has blown up. But the villain here isn’t the woman whose memory of a traumatic night two years ago has holes in it, it’s Rolling Stone, which has done incalculable damage to rape victims everywhere by making a big splash with a sensational story it never checked out.

I’ll also review a wonderful book by an Armenian-American woman who lived in Turkey for two years, where she learned a lot about the complexity of ethnic conflict. And I’ll link to somebody else’s review of a book I hope to read soon, about the importance of the apocalypse in evangelical thinking.

Plus a bunch of other stuff and a typically silly closing.

The Monday Morning Teaser

After the mid-term elections, I complained that “Republicans have a story to tell. We’re stuck with facts.” They have a mythic narrative I summed up as: “America is a city on a hill with barbarians at the gates.” Democrats answer with a bunch of small-scale policies: a higher minimum wage, increased access to health care, equal pay for women, and so on. It’s all good stuff but it doesn’t stir the blood, with the result that a lot of our voters forget to go out and vote.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently small-scale or non-mythic about liberalism, so I promised to spend some of my time in the wilderness thinking about what I called “the true story of America”.

If you thought that meant that in a few weeks I’d deliver the mythic liberal narrative wrapped up with a pretty bow, you have way too much faith in me. This week I’m posting a first tentative step in that direction, what I’m billing as “a rambling attempt to get to the heart of the progressive vision”. It’s called “Can We Share the World?” because it harks back to some of the ideas in a talk I gave several years ago called “Who Owns the World?” It’s intentionally incomplete and imperfect, and I’m putting it out there to draw comment and start discussion.

It’s also been kind of a busy week in the news, so the weekly summary is a little longer than usual. It discusses police killing black men and getting away with it, the surprisingly good November jobs report, why Hillary won’t announce her candidacy any time soon, and various religious-freedom stories that are out there.

When you’re writing a “rambling attempt” at something, it’s hard to predict exactly when it will be done. Look for “Can We Share the World?” maybe 11ish EST, and the weekly summary an hour or so later.

The Monday Morning Teaser

What else is there to write about this week: the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. The lead article will be “This Time, Will the Outrage Matter?” I’m not sure when it will come out.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Maybe the most depressing post in Weekly Sift history is “Countdown to Augustus“. It extrapolated from the then-current legal back-and-forth between the President and the Senate about recess appointments and the possibility of nullifying laws by refusing to confirm anyone to enforce them, to the more general problem of the erosion of the political norms that a republic depends on to function.

Oversimplifying a little for brevity: Partisan gridlock creates a dysfunctional republic. Leaders then can’t solve problems without cutting corners, but in the long run the corner-cutting increases the dysfunctionality. The bad example to avoid is Rome, where a century of gridlock between the self-serving patricians of the Senate and a series of populist reformers from Marius to Caesar eroded the norms of republican government to the point that Augustus was able to sweep it all away.

Like I just said, it was depressing. And it’s topical again, because of the recently announced immigration reform by executive order.

Obama was in the typical Roman-populist-leader situation of either watching a problem fester (and convincing the electorate that politics is useless), or doing something that is legal but against the usual norms. So he did something. And I’m happy he did rather than leave the problem festering, but I also see the longer-term erosion continuing.

So I’ve written another depressing post: “One-and-a-Half Cheers for Executive Action”. No doubt you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

It should appear shortly. Later this morning, the weekly summary will discuss the reaction to Obama’s reform, Bill Cosby, the Buffalo snow, and a variety of other things.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week begins the long, vague project I proposed last week: coming up with the Story of America that liberals should be telling, one that justifies our worldview and mobilizes our voters.

But unlike the City on a Hill/Barbarians at the Gates story that plays that role for conservatives, I’d like our story to be as true as such a story can be. I want its history to correspond to what really happened, and its projections to be based on the way the world really works. Like any story, it will emphasize some things and leave out others, but I want it to illuminate rather than deceive.

In short, I don’t want to just throw all our current commitments together and spin some yarn that rationalizes them. Too many of the arguments we make today are corrupted by other people’s myths. Sometimes we’ve inadvertently accepted the ideological inventions of our opponents, and sometimes we’ve just given in to what Americans want to believe about themselves. Sometimes we’ve set our goals too timidly, so we end up promoting policies (like raising the minimum wage) that are fine ideas as far as they go, but don’t credibly solve the problem we say we’re working on.

So over the next several months (or maybe longer) I want to re-examine issues from scratch, and root my understanding of them in true history, rather than the stories commonly bandied about today. This week I start with immigration, and with Aviva Chomsky’s recent book Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. That piece is just about ready to go, and should be out shortly.

The weekly summary will open with a quote that could be the motto of the first phase of this whole vague project: “It is better to know less than to know so much that ain’t so.” (And it turns out not to be a Mark Twain or Will Rogers line, no matter what the internet says. That ain’t so.) Then I’ll go on to talk about President Obama’s new boldness on net neutrality, climate change, and (maybe soon) immigration; the comet landing; the Rashomon-ish way the media covered the second-year ObamaCare premiums; and whatever else comes up. And I’ll close with a video proving that although you may have to pay your dues to sing the blues, you don’t have to be old enough to talk.


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